Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A big lesson in Google Play’s little privacy slip

Mark Little, consumer analyst at Ovum

SPAIN: Google has successfully ridden the margins of regulation and consumer acceptance since birth. Operating in the grey areas where regulation is yet to catch up and consumers are yet to fully understand, is a brave but perfectly legal strategy that is even to be recommended- arguably the only place a technology company should be.

But, riding the margins is high risk and has consequences when laws are broken and consumers upset, a situation Google is no stranger to. The latest slip, from Google Play this time, sees the apparent passing of personally identifiable information to developers without consumer permission. Is this just another privacy violation to add to the playlist, another fine to pay down like the consumer pays a parking fine?- well yes it is, that’s the point.

It is this apparently casual attitude to privacy infringement that is gradually building a problem for the search giant. Privacy infringements drive an endless media feed-back loop that slowly and invisibly hardens consumers’ attitudes against the betraying brand and heats up the market for privacy services.

Already, Ovum’s Consumer Insights survey has shown that 66 percent would block tracking by a search engine if they could. Google are structured not to plan but just to innovate, to act first and ask questions afterwards, a culture many companies could do well to simulate, but a culture which can ignore relationships and positive engagement with the consumer.

Build it and they will come (for sure if it’s built by Google), but disrespect them and they will go is a lesson that Google and the Internet at large needs to learn fast.

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